Maija Rice, Junior, L’Anse
What she was named: Division 4 All-UP Second Team
What she should have been: Division 4 All-UP First Team
LAASE: In my argument for Dollar Bay’s Davin Hill in the boys column, I mentioned the lack of Copper Country representation at the All-UP meeting. That is the same thing that impacted L’Anse’s Maija Rice.
The junior guard put up incredible numbers – 17.8 points, 7 rebounds, 4.8 steals and 3.9 assists per game. She was the best player on a L’Anse team that went 20-4 with wins over Baraga (21-3) in the regular season, and Carney-Nadeau (20-5) and E-TC (21-2) in the postseason.
Rice was the driving force in each of those contests.
She scored 22 points against C-N and 11 against E-TC, as her team’s leading scorer in both contests.
Rice was a consistent point-getter all season, but she played her best basketball against the best competition. That should be worth something.
When the Purple Hornets defeated Baraga on Jan. 31, it snapped a 12-game winning streak for the Vikings. And guess who the leading scorer was? Maija Rice. She poured in 21 points, including eight in the fourth quarter to secure the win. And, she does it in a variety of ways. When the junior wants to get to the rim, good luck stopping her. With a combination of finesse, footwork and athleticism, she knows how to finish at the rim, draw fouls, or pull up in the midrange.
Luckily, the junior guard will have another chance at All-UP First Team next season, but she was worthy of earning a spot this time around.
DEROUIN: The central boys and girls Division 4 regionals are typically my favorite in the UP. With many of those teams having locked in schedules due to league games, the regionals put the area’s best from around the UP up against each other after a season of poll shuffling. Finally, you get to see how the top players and teams stack up, and a strong performance with a victory can do wonders for a player’s All-UP case. All one has to do is bring up the regional showing, and it’s normally enough to get a player over the edge on a nomination.
These reasons are why Maija Rice deserved a First Team selection.
Her 22 points in the 53-47 win over C-N validated her 17.8 points, 7 rebounds, 4.8 steals and 3.9 assists per game. Regardless of the lack of parity in the Copper Mountain Conference, Rice solidified her case as one of the top UP players in Division 4 with her regional semifinal outing.
Just getting to Kingsford required late-game heroics from Rice. Her 11 points in the win over E-TC came in a game where the final score was 39-34. In that district final win, Rice scored seven of the team’s 12 points in the final 5 minutes, 45 seconds of the game, including the go-ahead 3 to break a 27-27 tie that gave her team the lead.
A L’Anse squad that earned three wins over top five teams deserved a First Team selection, and given Rice’s numbers and signature moments, she deserved more recognition for her efforts.